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An Ordeal That's Not So Hard

An Ordeal That's Not So Hard
Smoke was hanging in the air when we braved the road up to Island Park Scout Camp for an Order of the Arrow Fellowship.  With the fires in the area, there was some concern about health during this overnight event.  I was doing my ordeal and my spouse was doing brotherhood.

Cramer Imaging staff wearing Boy Scouts of America uniforms and Order of the Arrow sashes at Island Park Scout Camp in Targhee National Forest, Idaho
Ken in his Brotherhood sash and Audrey in her Ordeal sash at the camp where they participated in a fellowship together.
I had heard about the OA ordeal.  I knew the stories and rumors inside out.  Now it was my turn to learn about whether or not this was all that it was cracked up to be or not.  I carefully reminded myself of everything I had ever heard about the event and everything that my spouse would say about it.

Order of the Arrow Centennial Logo
I knew about sleeping alone under the stars (no tent).  That privilege is reserved for members not candidates.  I knew about the day of silence except for absolutely necessary communication.  I knew about the restricted food for the day.  I knew that there would be an assigned sleeping location for me and that would be where I had to sleep for the night.

I heard stories about being told to sleep in a spot that happened to have an ant hill under the sleeping bag.  I heard horror stories about fellowships which had been rained out in the extreme.  I also heard about the concerns of bears being in the area.  Treasure Mountain had to close down for a while and redirect campers because of a bear this year.

The Ordeal Sash
Photograph of an Ordeal level Order of the Arrow sash insignia from the Boy Scouts of America
Above all, I knew that there was a day of hard work ahead of me.  It was physical labor and it would help with the camp maintenance.  I knew I was in for hot sun and a difficult time getting the job done if I was working in a group.

I won't be describing the ceremonies which took place as that seems to be something for only the "initiated" to know (if you will pardon the choice of words).  Anyone can learn what they are through joining by gaining the nomination from one's own troop.  Instead, I will be discussing the non-ceremonial aspects of the ordeal which seem to be open topics for discussion even outside the brotherhood of the OA.

In an attempt to keep things light in packing and easy to keep track of, I ended up making the mistake of not carrying my gear on a backpack.  I found out that I needed to carry my gear with me to the site of the evening opening ceremony.  That was a bit of a hike and the gear got really heavy.

After the ceremony, the boys were assigned their campgrounds and instructed to sleep a good distance apart.  No one actually pointed at a spot and told each boy where he would spread out his sleeping bag.  That might have been something from previous incarnations of the ceremony but was not used for me and my ordeal.

Due to the nature of Youth Protection, the adults on ordeal had to be assigned a different location to sleep from the boys.  The men and the women also needed different accommodations.  There was one other lady on ordeal with me and she was assigned to the same campsite with me.

It was a quiet night and an early silent morning.  Thanks to my layers, I was not cold despite the temperature dipping into the low 40's that night.  Island Park is up in the mountains after all.  Breakfast was rather small for a growing teenage boy but, for me, it was perfectly adequate.  Then began the work.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality nature and fruit photograph of a red apple on an apple tree in Pocatello, Bannock, Idaho
Half an apple was about half of breakfast and a third of lunch that day.
We started off the day by assessing the condition of the picnic tables out at several of the campsites and putting them up for the season if they weren't already.  I was thinking that this wasn't so bad and that I might have gotten out of the digging I had heard mentioned the previous night.  I was wrong.

Brotherhood Sash
Photograph of a Brotherhood level Order of the Arrow sash insignia from the Boy Scouts of America
The very next task was the digging and my group (the Apaches) was one of the groups assigned to go dig.  We spent the rest of the day or so out at the C.O.P.E. (or zip line) digging a hole to sink new anchors into the ground to support the new posts they had already set up.

It was really interesting watching the boys at this task.  They did not have the experience to know what to do.  They happily grabbed shovels and started digging without much thought to what they were doing.  They got several pointers from the "site foreman" who could speak.

I took over leadership of that hole and made sure that things got dug the proper depth and angle.  Somehow, I made it work without talking.  They did most of the heavy lifting of dirt, though I took some time down in the hole shoveling myself.

Order of the Arrow Logo
After a slightly larger meal for lunch than for breakfast, we headed back out to the job site for the heat of the afternoon sun.  I was making doubly sure that the boys I worked with took some time for a break and water.

The signal to switch out of the deep hole ended up being the signal to go drink something.  A couple of the other holes ended up being short-handed so we had to donate a couple of boys.  This made the work take longer.

Eventually, we got to the point where it looked possible to bury the anchor.  We summoned the foreman over to see.  With a little further guidance, we carved out the hole properly and were the first group to complete digging our hole.  Our services helped finish off the other three holes.

That dirt was not sandy at all.  It was also about fifty percent rocks about the size of potatoes or even individual watermelons.  This made for some interesting digging practices but the rocks made filling the holes much easier in the end.



In the middle of Taquiwi the call went out for some cheerful service to help island park build part of its new tower. The Shunkah warriors responded to the call in mass and more bed the largest heaviest door panel for the new tower into place for staff to bolt into place.
Posted by Shunkah Mahneetu Lodge 407 on Saturday, August 22, 2015
This was the site where we planted the anchors. You can even see the anchor location I helped with in the north east side when they move the panel. This video was taken a day after we completed the fellowship.  We were not present for this service portion as we had to leave after the fellowship was over.

Once we were done with the holes, we still had to remove the canopies from off the permanent shade farm near the lodge.  That required some doing and lots of people helping.  After that was torn down and put away, our ordeal was over.

Ordeal and Brotherhood Sashes together
Photograph of an Ordeal and Brotherhood level Order of the Arrow sash insignia from the Boy Scouts of America
We were escorted to the location of the second ceremony for full induction into the Order of the Arrow.  This was another ceremony that was not long.  It was so refreshing after it was done to be told and to be able to speak again.

I made some observations about the ordeal which most of the boys would have missed.  We started work at 9 and concluded at 5 with about 45 minutes or so for a lunch break.  We were doing a construction level job.  This was an ordinary work day for many adults in the construction industry.  Some of these boys may just find themselves doing this when they grow up.

This time length explains why it was not so difficult to me as it would have been to those boys.  I had already spent time in the working world.  There is a reason why my spouse describes the ordeal with "When you're 14, it's the most difficult thing you have ever done in your life.  When you're an adult, it's Tuesday."

I also observed that, though I was with my spouse the whole time, the ordeal candidates were segregated from most of the rest of the members present on site until after the final ceremony.  This seemed fitting as we were not yet members of the organization.

The adults were not actually running the fellowship except for the bureaucratic work behind the scenes or acting as foremen where it would be inappropriate to put a teenage boy in charge for safety reasons.  Everything else was conducted by the youth lodge leadership.

I also observed that the ceremonies were not long with our group of 30 or so candidates but would be much longer with larger groups.  The length of the ceremony mostly has to do with how many boys are there for ordeal.

Cramer Imaging's photograph of an Order of the Arrow Shunkah Mahneetu Lodge pocket flap patch with running wolves
This is the pocket flap patch I was given at the fellowship.  I'm currently wearing a different patch on my uniform.
I found that there was a lot of "hurry up and wait" time during several points of the ordeal.  There was a bunch of time devoted to sitting and thinking (hopefully).  Due to the level of organization, or lack thereof, there might be more time given for this than required.

Most of the rumors I had heard, and listed, are all true.  There weren't really any big surprises in the schedule either.  I know that I'm glad I don't have to do that again.  I also know there are several boys which feel similar.  We now wear our OA ordeal sashes with pride knowing what we have accomplished together.

If you would like to read about my experience going through for my Brotherhood, then just follow this link.